Due to certain people's wishes (I'm looking at you, Antispiral ;) ) and my own love for this pairing and the little AU I have created, I now present for your reading pleasure EdoJellal/EdoErza fanfiction. It's a continuation of my Odds and Ends one-shot Royalty. The recent manga chapters (195 especially - I am still so mad about that one) rendered the continuity of both fics a definite AU but I hope you will still enjoy this one.
Disclaimer: Recognizable characters are Hiro Mashima's. Plot and OCs are mine.
"Turn your head a bit to the right, Erza-san."
General Erza Knightwalker, Edolas' Chief of Staff for another two hours and seventeen minutes, obeyed wordlessly. The hands that had already been pulling and tugging at her hair for half an hour resumed their work and the little mouth that belonged to the owner of those hands opened up as well.
"It's a pity you have been cutting your hair recently. If it was longer, I could do so much more with it."
"Short hair is more practical," Erza replied with a half-truth. The length of her hair was also a distinct reminder of her difference from the other Erza, though she was no longer sure just why she should keep reminding others of it.
"Of course, it is," came an agreeing reply. "For a soldier. But you are being crowned as a queen today. Shouldn't you grow it out again?"
"Coco," Erza sighed. "I like it better short, okay? Just make it look pretty or something for the ceremony. I don't really care."
The former messenger gasped and there was an echoing gasp coming from the other occupant of the room. Erza grimaced, preparing for the scolding that was sure to follow.
"How can you say that, Erza?" a woman who had been until then sitting quietly on the settee spoke up. "It's your wedding day, you should be more excited. And you are marrying the King. If I were in your place-"
"But you aren't, mother," Erza cut her off, turning in her seat to face the woman who had borne her into the world. "I wasn't brought up dreaming of marrying a handsome prince. My destiny was to lead the soldiers of Edolas as every other firstborn Knightwalker had done. This," an elaborate gesture of her right arm seemed to encompass the whole room and the palace beyond, "This was merely a coincidence."
Adelaide Knightwalker stared at her daughter before shaking her head in defeat.
"Sometimes I forget about that stubborn and practical nature of yours."
Erza turned back and motioned for Coco to continue.
"It's the way I was brought up to be, mother."
"But King Jellal is so young and handsome. You are the envy of all noble daughters in the country. They would kill to be in your place."
Erza's grin was positively demonic.
"They can try."
"I was speaking figuratively," Adelaide chastised her daughter. There was a vicious and bloodthirsty part of Erza's character that had been inherited from the girl's father. It was said that a streak of sadism ran in the Knightwalker family and there was certainly some truth to the statement. Then again, the family had been raising soldiers and army leaders for Edolas for centuries. Some of the most famous Generals in history had come from the Knightwalker family line and Erza was simply the last in that line, Knightwalker to a marrow of her bones.
She had refused to hand in her commission as the General until the very last minute. Most of the wedding preparations had been done in Erza's absence because she had wanted to leave the army in the best possible state and so had spent a lot of time in meetings with other Generals, selecting her successor carefully. She was unlike any bride Adelaide had ever seen or heard of. Even this meeting of the mother and daughter, less than two hours before the wedding, was the first one in several months. It was actually the first one since Erza had sent her family a message about her engagement. But that was simply the way Erza was - duty-bound and with a fierce temper to match her hair.
"What do you want me to say?" the young woman demanded of her mother. "That I'm happy that the King has chosen me as his bride? That I'm madly in love with him and can't wait until we are married? That I'm shaking in my stupid flimsy shoes with excitement just at the thought of him?"
"Yes," Adelaide stood up and crossed the room to stand in front of Erza, leaning down to look into the eyes that were a copy of her own. "I would like you to say that because then I could be sure you will be happy."
"But it would be a lie."
Erza kept the eye contact unflinchingly.
"I do not love him, mother," she pronounced clearly, ignoring the startled Coco who had dropped the brush and several hairpins at the proclammation. "And he does not love me. He has chosen me because I was his best option. I will fullfill my duty to Edolas and to my King and that will be enough to make me happy."
"That's very cold, Erza-san," Coco dared to interrupt the conversation between the mother and the daughter. "And you are wrong. The King must love you, why would he be the way he is around you otherwise?"
"He cares for me, Coco, but that's not love. He doesn't want me to suffer like his mother did."
"What about you?" the older Knightwalker challenged. "Do you care for him?"
"Of course I do," Erza scoffed. "He is my King."
"That's not what I'm asking, Erza. You will be spending your life with this man. The man, not the King. If you cannot understand the difference, if you cannot love him, your marriage will fail."
"Love is not a necessity for the marriage to work," Erza stared at her mother, reciting the words she had been told years ago. "If you respect your husband and care for him, if you are faithful and devoted, then it is enough. Love might come with time, if not for him, then for the children you will bear him. It's the respect, affection and loyalty that make for a successful marriage, my child. Your words, mother, not mine," she added.
They stared at each other in a silent contest of wills and it was Adelaide who looked away first.
"As I said, stubborn."
"And as I said, it's the way I was brought up to be."
"Erza-san," Coco asked timidly. "Do you really think so? That the respect and loyalty will be enough?"
"I wouldn't be doing this otherwise."
The young girl resumed her work on Erza's hair and Adelaide returned to her seat, though she kept watching her daughter. Erza was aware of her mother's eyes on her but ignored it easily. It was far too late trying to make a demure bride out of her, one who could pretend loving her husband. And besides, Jellal preferred an honest approach. It was one of the cornerstones of their relationship - they wouldn't lie to each other, even if the truth was harsh.
Another half an hour later, Coco finally declared her work finished. Watching the final product in the mirror filled Erza with mixed feelings. It was certainly beautiful but it looked far too fragile as if the slightest shake of her head would upset the whole balance. But when she tried to test that theory, she found out that the appearances were as usual deceiving.
"Just how many hairpins have you used?"
"I don't know. I stopped counting after the first hundred."
Erza shook her head again but not a single hair had been dislodged.
"Amazing. Now go find my father and tell him to get ready to escort me to the cathedral."
"But your dress..." Coco protested.
"My mother will help me with them."
Adelaide nodded and took the snow-white gown that had been laid over the bed. Coco took one last look at Erza and apparently satisfied with what she had seen, she took off in search of the retired General Rufus Knightwalker.
"Shall I call another maid?" Adelaide asked.
"No, I'm used to doing things for myself."
"That might have been acceptable when you served in the military but you are to be a queen."
"Mother, please," Erza raised her hand. "I don't want to argue with you today."
Adelaide pressed her lips together but let the subject drop. Erza stood up and shrugged off the dressing gown she had put on after her morning bath. She could see her mother open a mouth, probably to ask about some of the scars that were scattered over her body and beat her to it.
"There is a long story behind every single one of those scars. But I can assure you that those who were responsible for them were each paid back tenfold."
"Oh, Erza. How can you expect a man to desire you when you are so marred?"
And that comment clearly showed the difference between the two of them. Adelaide Knightwalker had been once one of those young noble girls who had been brought up knowing they would end up marrying an unknown man for the sake of a political alliance or monetary gain. The more beautiful and perfect girl, the better the chances for her to secure an advantage for her family. Perfection of the body to catch an attention of a potential husband and then to keep it was their first law.
Erza, on the other hand, had never been expected to worry about the politics and arranged marriages to secure her future. She was the firstborn child and as such was an heir to the military legacy of the Knightwalkers. The sex of the heir had never mattered. Erza had been brought up to be a loyal soldier of Edolas, her first law being a duty to the country and to the king. Her eventual marriage would be purely for the sake of another heir to carry on the duties of Knightwalkers.
Ironically enough, that wouldn't be a case anymore. Her firstborn child would now become a heir to the Kingdom of Edolas, the royal lineage of the kid taking precedence over the Knightwalker one. The new heir of the family would be her younger brother while she would take on the duties as the queen.
All of this went through Erza's mind in a second in which she had turned to face her mother, propping one hand on her hip in a seductive pose.
"I wouldn't say so, mother. I rather think the scars raise my desirability. They make me look different from the bland beauties without a blemish that are so often seen around the court. A wild rose would always stand up among the cultivated lilies, don't you think?"
"And the King thinks the same?"
"I asked him why he chose me when there were so many others to pick from. Do you know what he told me?"
Adelaide shook her head and Erza smiled a victorious smile.
"He said that none of them were so strong or loyal as me. That none of them possessed my willpower and dedication to duty. He doesn't want a trophy wife to stand in his shadow. He wants a woman strong enough to stand at his side as an equal."
"I was wrong to question you," Adelaide admitted. "And I was wrong to doubt your future happiness with him. You can't help but love the man who lets you be yourself."
Erza reached a hand for the dress.
"Maybe. But I know that being late is not something I want to be today. Help me put it on."
"Are you sure you don't want to ask me something?" Adelaide asked as she laced the back of the corset that went over the silk undershift. "About tonight and what to expect?"
"Tonight?" Erza repeated before she realized what her mother meant. "I don't think it's necessary. You told me about it when I started my monthly cycle and I have a good memory."
Having another talk with her mother about her wifely duties would be far more than Erza could handle at the moment. If she was a fragile noble girl marrying someone significantly older or ugly, then it might soothe her nerves. But she wasn't and Jellal was the same age as her and as far from ugly as possible. And she had known him for quite some time now. She wasn't marrying a total stranger. She had no need of a pep talk from her mother.
"Are you sure?" Adelaide pressed on.
"Yes, I'm sure."
A knock at the door interrupted that argument and Coco stuck her head inside.
"Your father's here, Erza-san."
"Another moment," Adelaide called out as she hurriedly finished tieing up the laces in the back. "This would have been faster if we had called a maid," she muttered to her daughter who merely shrugged.
"It's done now, isn't it?" Erza smoothed down the skirt of her dress and turned around to face her mother. "What do you think? Do I look acceptable?"
The dress was beautiful and trully fitting for a queen, a masterpiece of silk, satin and silver. The corset was embroidered in silver threads and the skirt had a long train in the back while the front had a slit up to the knees which made it easier to walk. Even the silk undershift copied the cut of the gown. The long sleeves were made of lace and attached with long white ribbons to the rest of the dress. A thin veil hung from the top of Erza's head, trailing down her back. Adelaide wiped away a tear.
"You are a vision in white, like an angel."
"Angel, huh?" Erza muttered and looked at herself one last time. "A disguise, nothing more. I'm no angel."
"Don't be like that. You make a beautiful bride," leaning over, Adelaide kissed her on both cheeks. "I'm so proud of you."
"Thanks," Erza said, more than a little uncomfortable. Her mother went to the door, letting her father in. He looked her up and down, giving her a single nod of approval and then offered her his arm. In less than an hour, she would walk down the aisle in the Royal City cathedral and become a wife to the King. Erza took a deep breath. She could do this, she knew she could. "Let's go."
The cathedral was packed to the last place. Visiting dignitaries, Edolas nobility and lucky citizens who managed to secure a place were all inside, waiting to witness this momentous occasion. Erza, arm in arm with her father who was dressed in his old uniform, walked slowly down the long aisle, her gaze fixed firmly ahead. She recognized several of the guests but offered nothing more than a curt nod in their direction.
Jellal stood at the bottom of the altar steps, dressed in elaborate robes and wearing what she called his diplomatic face. He smiled genuinely, though, as she stopped in front of him and her father passed her hand over to his. Jellal raised it to his lips, Erza smiling herself at this affectionate gesture of his. She had grown used to it in the previous months.
She had heard before that the actual wedding passed as a blur for many brides. She, however, remembered every single detail, from the words of the priest through the feel of the ribbons that had been tied around her and Jellal's wrists to the weight of the crown that Jellal himself had placed on her head. Raising from her kneeling position, she turned to face the crowd of people over whom she would be ruling from then on. A touch at her arm brought her attention to Jellal who offered her his arm and together they descended the steps.
There was an open carriage outside, to take them on a round of the city, to show off the new royal couple to the masses before they would head to the palace to preside over a feast to their honour. People lined the streets, cheering and clapping, the boisterous atmosphere the likes of which hadn't been seen in a long while filling the whole place. The celebration seemed to raise the spirits of the people, people who hadn't had a reason to laugh for quite some time.
"They look happy, don't they?" Jellal leaned over to whisper in her ear. Erza nodded in agreement. The people were happy and that was what mattered. "We'll be heading back soon. Are you ready?"
"You mean for the endless stream of ambassadors, nobles and other people who will wish us all the best, telling us how happy we will be together even though they don't know us?" she asked sarcastically. "Sure, I am ready."
He chuckled, squeezing her hand in sympathy.
"If it's any consolation, I don't look forward to that any more than you do."
"Would you believe me if I told you it is?"
He smiled at her and she smiled back and it all clicked into place. Her mother had been right. She could grow to love this man. But before that, there were still some things they needed to clear up between the two of them. Later, she promised herself. They would talk later that night, to start their life together with a clean slate.
Almost ten hours later, Erza was finally alone again. The parade of well-wishers had taken better part of the afternoon and after the feast had started, it would have been rude to leave before some time had passed. When she had retired for the evening she had been accompanied by a whole retinue of maids but after they had helped her take the wedding dress off, she had sent them away.
She sat down in front of the large vanity in her new room and regarded her reflection in the mirror. She looked the same as ever, as if nothing had changed. Smirking a bit, she raised her hands to start undoing her hair, pulling out one hairpin after another. She got to ten when the door opened and she stilled, turning around to face her visitor. She relaxed when she saw her husband of less than a half-day.
"Ever heard of knocking?" she called out, returning to her task.
"It's my room as well," Jellal replied. He closed the door behind him and slowly walked over to where she sat. Putting his hands over hers, he lowered them to her sides. "Let me help."
She knew better than to protest and so let him take over the task. He was very careful, making sure he didn't pull any of her hair. The scene was very endearing and Erza hated to break it up but some things had to be asked and said.
"Tell me about the Earthland," she requested and she knew she had surprised him because he stopped what he was doing. It had been a tacit, wordless agreement between the two of them not to mention the other world. "I want to know."
"It's different," he started, resuming his work, too. "Magic is plentiful and people posses it in their bodies, not only in artifacts and tools. People are generally rather happy and content with their lives. I'd like to see Edolas become like that one day."
"What about you? Or rather," Erza clarified, "the Earthland you. Have you ever met him?"
There was a longer pause this time and Erza looked up, her eyes meeting his in the mirror.
"No," Jellal finally replied. "We have never met but I know about him. His name is Jellal Fernandes. He's a powerful mage. He and Erza Scarlet have a long history together."
That should have come as a surprise to her. It didn't and she wasn't exactly sure why.
"Tell me more."
"They met as children in a slave camp. When the slaves rebelled, their paths split. Erza went on to become the strongest female mage in Fairy Tail and Jellal, who had been possessed by an ancient ghost, thought up a gambit that would resurrect the said ghost. He almost suceeded but Natsu, Erza and several others stopped him. The tower where the resurrection was to take place was caught in a magical explosion and they thought him dead."
"He didn't die?"
"No. He survived but he lost all of his memories. On the other hand, he became free of the ancient ghost and assisted with a joint effort of several guilds to destroy a powerful dark guild. They suceeded but Jellal was taken into a prison for his previous crimes."
"What about his relationship with Erza?"
"They love each other," he said without hesitation. "Despite everything that has been thrown at them, they still love each other. I would say it is fate."
He pulled out the last hairpin and Erza stood up, shaking her head, letting her hair settle naturally around her face. She turned and took his hands into her own.
"I despised you at first, when you became the King," she began, shushing him when he tried to speak. "I had a low opinion and no respect for you. That's because of how I was brought up. Duty is sacred. Abandoning one's duty is the lowest you can fall, no matter who you are. In fact, the higher position you hold, the worse it is when you fail. You ran away as a child. I barely knew you then, I think we have met maybe twice in the court at the time my training started. But you were a prince, you had responsibilities to the kingdom and you chose to disregard them. How could I respect someone like you?"
"But you accepted the commission as the Chief of Staff," Jellal said, looking confused.
"Because you came to me personally. Because I could see you wanted things to work out. Because you seemed to have finally grasped the concept of duty. And because I wanted to be close in case you changed your mind and tried to get out of your responsibilities again."
"What would you have done if that happened?" he asked.
"I would have killed you," she replied with no hesitation at all. She smiled but the smile lacked a mirth. "I would have commited regicide and wouldn't feel sorry at all. The King who abandons his country doesn't deserve to live."
"It won't happen," Jellal said earnestly.
"I know that now. I came to know you since then. To know you and to respect you. And that is enough for now, isn't it?"
"Yes, that's enough for now," he agreed. He stroke her cheek with his thumb before he dipped his head, kissing her softly. He pulled away after a moment, smiling down at her. "I would say that earning your respect is a great accomplishment in itself."
"It is," Erza confirmed. "I respect only a select few people. You should be proud to be among them."
"Believe me, I am."
Erza took a step away from him and turned around, presenting him with her back.
"Will you help me with this? I can't reach the ties myself," and as he started to unlace the back of her shift, she couldn't resist to add. "Don't be surprised but I have several scars on my body. I hope you can bear to look at them."
"Why that should be a problem?" he sounded honestly puzzled.
"Because according to my mother, men are put off by marred women."
He traced one of those scars she was talking about, dropping a kiss on it and leaning over her shoulder, he whispered to her.
"I have an utmost respect for your mother but she's wrong."
"I told her so," letting the shift drop to the ground, Erza stepped over it and into his embrace, pulling him into another kiss. "She would also say that this is part of the wife's duties. But this is not a duty."
"What is it, then?" Jellal was clearly fascinated by her boldness. She smirked before replying.
"This is fate."
A/N: Sorry for not writing a lemon but I wasn't in the right mood. I needed to get the disappointment with the latest chapter out of my system and this was a wondeful therapy.
Some notes: I gave Erza parents and family. Why? Because I could. And because there's nothing in the manga to say it isn't so. I chose their names because I like Adelaide. And Rufus means red-haired, if I remember my Latin correctly.
The comment about one flower standing up among the others is paraphrased from Berserk manga, volume 29, I believe.
I'm trying to train myself into using official spellings of names, hence Jellal. That's all folks, I hope you enjoyed.